This is the story of Hugo, a young orphaned boy played by Asa Butterfield. He lives inside the walls of a train station and is searching for parts so that he can fix a mechanical man that he and his late father (Jude Law) had begun to fix. In the process he befriends a young girl called Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), rediscovers early film maker George Melies (Ben Kingsley), learns about his pioneering work in film, and finds himself part of new family. It’s a fairytale directed by Martin Scorsese with a story about the early history of film shoehorned in. It was also nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, undeservedly in my opinion, although its not a bad film by any means.
Initially I struggled to get into the story. It feels almost like you are watching a bunch of cartoon characters albeit ones played by humans. It takes a little while before the emotional elements of the film work their magic so that you can become more accepting of these slightly unreal characters. There is lot of light humour, much of it coming from Sacha Baron Cohen’s Inspector Gustave, who has an injured left leg. Although it has to be said many of the humourous elements do feel a little flat and forced. And while it was genuinely interesting to learn about George Melies and his films, there is an educational tone to these sections which makes them feel slightly incongrous when compared with the adventure and fantasy of the main story.
In all but name this is a live-action Disney film featuring the now familiar story where the orphaned main character finds himself alone in the world and then through a ‘journey’ and with the help of various characters he meets on the way, is able to find happiness and ultimately a new family. But sadly this isn’t vintage ‘Disney’. The screenplay and dramatic pacing just aren’t good enough and the emotional hooks the film tries to get into you never go deep enough under your skin for you to really care. You were upset when Bambi’s mother died, and no doubt you cared when Simba was left alone after his father’s death, but with Hugo….. not so much.